All posts


Game development








Hello! I'm Tom. I designed a game called Gunpoint, about rewiring things and punching people, and now I'm working on a new one called Heat Signature, about sneaking aboard randomly generated spaceships. Here's some more info on all the games I've worked on, here's the podcast I do, here are the videos I make on YouTube, here are some of the articles I wrote for PC Gamer, and here are two short stories I wrote for the Machine of Death collections.


By me. Uses Adaptive Images by Matt Wilcox.

Heat Signature’s Launch, And First Player Legend

A Leftfield Solution To An XCOM Disaster

Rewarding Creative Play Styles In Hitman

Postcards From Far Cry Primal

Solving XCOM’s Snowball Problem

Kill Zone And Bladestorm

An Idea For More Flexible Indie Game Awards

Teaching Heat Signature’s Ship Generator To Think In Sectors

What Works And Why: Multiple Routes In Deus Ex

Natural Numbers In Game Design

Naming Drugs Honestly In Big Pharma

Writing vs Programming

Let Me Show You How To Make A Game

New Heat Signature Video: Galaxies, Suction And Wrench-Throwing

What Works And Why: Nonlinear Storytelling In Her Story

My Idea For An ‘Unconventional Weapon’ Game

From Gunpoint To Heat Signature: A Narrative Journey

The Cost Of Simplifying Conversations In Videogames

What Works And Why: Invisible Inc

Our Super Game Jam Episode Is Out

What Works And Why: Sauron’s Army

Showing Heat Signature At Fantastic Arcade And EGX

What I’m Working On And What I’ve Done

The Formula For An Episode Of Murder, She Wrote

Heat Signature Needs An Artist And A Composer

Improving Heat Signature’s Randomly Generated Ships, Inside And Out

Gunpoint Patch: New Engine, Steam Workshop, And More

Distance: A Visual Short Story For The Space Cowboy Game Jam

Raising An Army Of Flying Dogs In The Magic Circle

Floating Point Is Out! And Free! On Steam! Watch A Trailer!

Drawing With Gravity In Floating Point

What’s Your Fault?

The Randomised Tactical Elegance Of Hoplite

Here I Am Being Interviewed By Steve Gaynor For Tone Control

Heat Signature: A Game About Sneaking Aboard Randomly Generated Spaceships

The Grappling Hook Game, Dev Log 6: The Accomplice

A Story Of Heroism In Alien Swarm

One Desperate Battle In FTL

To Hell And Back In Spelunky

Games Vs Story 2

Gunpoint Development Breakdown

Five Things I Learned About Game Criticism In Nine Years At PC Gamer

My Short Story For The Second Machine Of Death Collection

Not Being An Asshole In An Argument

Playing Skyrim With Nothing But Illusion

How Mainstream Games Butchered Themselves, And Why It’s My Fault

A Short Script For An Animated 60s Heist Movie

The Magical Logic Of Dark Messiah’s Boot

Arguing On The Internet

Shopstorm, A Spelunky Story

Why Are Stealth Games Cool?

E3’s Violence Overload, Versus Gaming’s Usual Violence Overload

The Suspicious Developments manifesto

GDC Talk: How To Explain Your Game To An Asshole

Listening To Your Sound Effects For Gunpoint

Understanding Your Brain

What Makes Games Good

A Story Of Plane Seats And Class

Deckard: Blade Runner, Moron

Avoiding Suspicion At The US Embassy

An Idea For A Better Open World Game

A Different Way To Level Up

How I Would Have Ended BioShock

My Script For A Team Fortress 2 Short About The Spy

Team Fortress 2 Unlockable Weapon Ideas

Don’t Make Me Play Football Manager

EVE’s Assassins And The Kill That Shocked A Galaxy

My Galactic Civilizations 2 War Diary

I Played Through Episode Two Holding A Goddamn Gnome

My Short Story For The Machine Of Death Collection

Blood Money And Sex

A Woman’s Life In Search Queries

First Night, Second Life

SWAT 4: The Movie Script

I Read A Thirty-Eight Page Comic About Google’s Browser

So You Don’t Have To

Update: it’s out? Thanks Major Tom.

Update: impressions below.


Google Chrome is based on the notion of turning each tab into a separate instance of your browser, so if one crashes or is busy, it doesn’t have to affect the others. And so you can see which ones are hogging memory, CPU or bandwidth. It’s also about running JavaScript a lot faster, searching within sites by typing their name first, keeping popups within the tab that opened them, using web-pages as apps by getting rid of the browser framing, and surfing privately in a mode that saves no data or history to your PC. It comes out tomorrow.

I don’t think there are a lot of people out there riotously unhappy with Firefox – in fact, less than 20% of them are unhappy enough with IE to bother with Firefox. But this makes a good case that existing browsers can’t fully adapt to the way we’re using the net without a ground-up replumbing.

Whether and when I switch to it will depend on how customisable it gets. The point of Firefox to me is not tabs, stability or security, it’s the Extensions system. Life without Adblock isn’t worth living. I refuse point-blank to register for anything without InFormEnter to reduce the process to mouse-clicks. And I reach for ImageZoom like a myopic fumbles for their specs.

Impressions: it is blue and fast.

Here’s how fast:

It is fast enough that it loads pages with ads faster than Firefox loads them without ads, and I think that may be the point. And I have just spotted that its spellchecker considers “Firefox” to be an error. Yes, friends, this is the first James post written from Google’s browser. Update: its spellchecker also considers ‘Google’ and ‘spellchecker’ to be errors.

It’s possible it won’t ever be designed for extensions the way Firefox is, because something like Adblock becoming mainstream is probably the single biggest threat to Google’s business. I wouldn’t be surprised if Google would rather Firefox never overtook Internet Explorer.

Other things that may be The Point:

The most striking visual eccentricity of Chrome is that it has no title bar, it rejects Windows convention, monopolises your entire screen, and refuses to label itself as a mere application. Apparently the computers in the Googleplex lobby are running Chrome alone: no start bar or trace of an operating system beneath it.

They may have little or no interest in becoming the de facto browser. Firefox loyalists in the comments here – and Mozilla themselves – are smug in the knowledge that Firefox will eventually do anything Chrome can do that’s worth doing. Google have a huge vested interest in raising the general speed at which browsers can run applications: if Internet Explorer defends its user base by becoming fast enough to support a more powerful version of Google Docs, Google win yet again.

Something that is probably not The Point:

Every few minutes, Google Chrome grinds my PC to a halt for a few seconds, then lets it run for a few seconds, then grinds it to a halt again. Chrome Task Manager insists no part of it is using any CPU at all, but Windows Task Manager shows one Chrome process hogging 25-50% of my CPU during the chugging. Thing has a way to go.

Heavy: Where is funny post Sandvich!? MEEDDDIIC!!

Devenger: Agree; I've nevr had severe problems with anything about Firefox, but ChatZilla (IRC), FireFTP and my self-modified theme are the real reasons I won't be leaving Firefox for a good while yet regardless of Google's ongoing rampage of awesomeness.

Haven't seen Adblock before (now I'm wondering how). Thanks for the heads-up.

roburky: After the upgrade to FireFox 3, my tabs extension broke, so my browser doesn't do what I expect it to any more, which is terribly frustrating. If I can customise Chrome so it opens new tabs on normal mouse clicks when I want it to, I'll be switching to that.

Major Tom: Google is getting frighteningly big and ambitious, it can't be long before they release their own OS and when that happens all hell will break loose.

However the main problem they have is lazyness, I'm too lazy to switch from Firefox as though tabbed browsing was a revelation multi threaded tabbed browsing isn't a revolution its just taking it a step further. But mainly as others have said the ease of use and number of good plug ins means it would be impossible to switch over.

Lack_26: The moment I opened this page, the exact same thing came up on radio 4.

Tom Camfield: Anything that stops javascript from crashing my browser is a good thing.

Tom Camfield: (Well, not anything, but stopping javascript crashes is aces.)

Pod: Page 22: Porn mode.


Anyway, I'm suprised to have heard this first through James! I'll definately give it a try though.

DoctorDisaster: That comic is terrible. I mean REALLY terrible. I am mightily impressed by the way you threw yourself in front of a bus for us there, Pentadact.

I agree with others who say Firefox's feature-richness has earned it some continued loyalty from me. I'll go another step and say that I suspect most of the Google browser's features will just go nom nom nom right into the next version of FF anyway.

Major Tom: Ok having now used it for about 5 minuites all I can say is, sweet mother and mary its fast. When I think back to using IE 5 on dial up this is just ridiculous.

It has to be tried.

Tom Camfield: Agreed, not only superfast, but I can now use my scroll wheel properly on webpages. Before I'd have to find a sweet spot between frames on, say, Eurogamer or RPS, before I could scroll up and down, now no matter where the mouse is on the page it just works. It's so liberating!

Tom Camfield: Not to hog the comments, but the javascript for the official fantasy football site is amazingly fast - whoosh fast.

TychoCelchuuu: Good:
Automatically adds website searches to the main bar
Drag and drop tabs

Not faster than Opera, and history browser is worse
No mouse gestures
You can't click the middle mouse button down to scroll quickly.

Neat stuff but that last "Bad" point is enough to keep me from using it. Still pretty interesting.

Hermes: hmm... adds a bunch of features that have been in Safari for AGES. Still very nice, and I look forward to the Mac version of Chrome.

Alek: What makes the comic terrible, exactly?

I like Scott McCloud's work a lot, so I was glad to see it here.

Also: Firefox addiction > Shiny new software by GOOGLE!

I tried the new browser, but nothing about it made me keep it. I do like all the security. Firefox, adapt now! :P

Connor D: Hmm, gave it a try, and I'm not amazingly impressed. I know it trys to draw me in with its speed, and with its lack of memory useage and slick looking browser. But overall, it's just quite a shallow experience. It just can't hold a light to FF3. Where's the middle mouse click and scroll ability, which I use too often for forums? I'd also miss the undo close tab, which hasn't been made for Chrome. Not even mentioning all the add-ons. A very decent try from Google, but I'll stick to FF3 for the meanwhile, maybe in the future, ey?

J-Man: I pretty much agree with Connor, I'm gonna stick with FF. BTW, does trackir work with FF, 'cos that would be better than christmas 2 months early, and a second christmas where the first christmas was.

Lack_26: I was going to install it, but it wanted to have google updater run every time I start up, I told it to get lost. I'll be sticking with FF for the foreseeable future.

Jason L: Trackir as in the flightnard infrared hat joystick gizmo?

Mike: So, according to conspiracy theorists, this post is now a Google franchise. ...EULA_Sucks

Make of it what you will, Tom.

Tom Francis: I look forward to Google's "public performance" of this post now that they have acquired the legal right to conduct one. I hope it's a sort of Shakespeare In The Park vibe.

Sam: Is it me or should they have just owned up and called the incognito window the porn window?

Sam: Pod beat me too it...

J-Man: Jason, trackIR is the head tracking thingimabob used for flight sims. I was wondering if it would work with an internet browser... Also, screw you chrome spellchecker, spellchecker and thingimabob are words.

J-Man: Tom, did you write EXPLODED?

Tom Francis: I did, feels like years ago. Latest word from the editors on that collection being published is: "to do this right it won't be done soon. at this point not much more can be said."

Jason L: You can make a TrackIR or other joystick work with anything via various tools that emulate keypresses or mouse events from the joystick... my preferred one is the obscure JoystickCursorTool for Flash games, but I don't think it supports proportional mouse movement if you need speed-controlled scrolling. JoyToKey seems to have mouse movement and has per-application profile support, and of course AutoHotKey can do just about anything you can imagine if you can just figure out how to express it.

ZomBuster: [url=steam:%]Click this if you use Chrome[/url]

ZomBuster: oops that failed D:

anyway steam:% crashes it even by just scrolling over a link to it

mandrill: You realise that by uploading this post through Chrome you have given google the right to do anything they want with it?
Read this, and section 11 of the Chrome EULA if you don't believe me.

mandrill: Heh, should have read the rest of the comments before posting. Mike beat me to it.

Jason L: For the record, the tinfoil link now notes that Google's fixed their EULA copy-and-paste booboo.

Matthew Francis: Tom, do you hate Firefox 3 as much as I do? I only switched to Firefox because I hated Internet Explorer and now they're imitating it. What's the solution? (I've gone back to FF2 for the time being.)

Tom Francis: I remember having some issue with it at first, but I've acclimatised fully now. There's probably a workaround for any given issue, if it's one change that's bothering you.

Matthew Francis: I have now discovered you can get a Classic Firefox theme, so have reinstalled it with this and it looks like Firefox is supposed to look. I still hate what they've done to History though. I can't find anything, even though it has a Search function.